New England Finish Systems, located in Salem, New Hampshire, was founded in 1985 and has been serving its community for 38 years.
- NASRCC – North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters (Union Affiliation)
- LiUNA – Laborers’ International Union of North America - Massachusetts & Northern New England Laborers’ District Council (Union Affiliation)
- IUPAT DC35 – International Union of Painters and Allied Trades – District Council 35 (Union Affiliation)
- BTEA – Building Trades Employers Association
- ASM – Associated Subcontractors of Massachusetts
- CISCA – Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction Association
“Drywall and finishing work has long been our focus and our expertise,” says Jon Bennett, president of NEFS. “However, in recent years, we have begun widening our scope of offerings. We now have a full-scale acoustical ceiling and wall division, as well as a millwork division and a custom installation division specializing in the installation of life science equipment, interior glass wall systems and custom millwork pieces. Broadening our offerings has allowed us to strength our partnerships with clients, as we fill in gaps that they were seeing in the marketplace while continuing to provide them with the same level of quality and service that they have become accustomed to over the years.”
Bennett got involved in the trades when he applied for an open position with an outfit out of Rhode Island in his teens. NEFS’ Vice President of the Ceiling Division, Jonathan Berube, also was introduced to the trades at a very young age.
“I come from a large blue-collar family and have a lot of relatives that are in the trades,” Berube says.
Both of them began their construction careers working hands-on in the field before subsequently transitioning into management positions. Both have their previous roles in the field to thank for their intimate knowledge of field processes and jobsite operations.
In the words of Bennett, “classic drywall and finishing services” are what allowed the company to create a name for itself in the industry. However, the company’s wide array of specialty installation services allows its team to fill in the gaps for clients throughout the region on increasingly niche and complex project types. These installation services include—but are not limited to—millwork, lab casework, glass walls, storefronts, stretch fabric walls, specialty panels, and doors and hardware.
The company has also found prefabrication lucrative. With more than 200,000 square feet of warehouse space, the subcontractor’s team has the ability to pre-fabricate project elements in-house before they arrive on a jobsite. These services include pre-forming complex drywall shapes, pre-installing hardware on doors and unitizing project components before they arrive on-site. Completing these tasks in a controlled, off-site location allows the company to place a greater focus on safety, quality, speed and value.
“We are currently branching into a wider range of pre-construction services,” Bennett says. “With in-house BIM capabilities, our team is dedicated to understanding the specifications of a project in greater detail and being able to communicate as effectively as possible with both clients and vendors.”
“In the early years, we established ourselves as leaders when it came to quality and timeliness by completing high-end tenant fit-out projects on expedited schedules with unmatched attention to detail,” Berube says. “As our clients’ needs and the Greater Boston market expanded, we continued to branch into larger and more specialized spaces. From biopharmaceutical labs to ground-up towers, we started making appearances on some of the region’s most distinguished job sites while continuing to prioritize client satisfaction. Keeping up with the latest industry trends and technology allowed the team to always remain at the forefront of an ever-evolving industry.”
The company has an office staff of 39 and a full-time warehouse staff of six. Its union field staff hovers around 300, including carpenters, laborers and tapers. The large majority of the trade workers are carpenters. The company is currently one of the largest employers of union carpenters when it comes to subcontractors throughout New England.
“The organization has gone through many years of organic growth, substantially increasing in volume year over year,” Bennett says. “Part of our goal moving forward is to concentrate on internal business growth. We are focused on ensuring that all of our growth is sustained through improved workflows and efficient use of resources. The stronger our internal processes are, the more capacity we can create for future growth.”
The company has seen an incredible amount of organic growth since its founding in 1985. Berube has personally been with NEFS since 2007, and he says the transformation has been staggering. For him, it has been an incredibly rewarding experience to be a part of the company’s expansion over the past 16 years and to witness NEFS morph into what it is today. He looks forward to what the future holds for all of the company’s divisions.
“Business is consistent and continuing to grow at a steady rate as new work rolls in,” Bennett says. “The first half of 2023 has been great, and projections are showing a strong finish to the year as well. We are positioned to thrive in 2024 with some of the largest awarded projects in our history slated to break ground.”
According to Berube, Boston remains one of the strongest construction climates in the country. In addition, the company’s other markets throughout New England remain consistent. The remainder of 2023 and the first half of 2024 are already projected to be strong months for all of the firm’s teams.
Bennett and Berube have different ideas about the most interesting part of their job.
“Witnessing plans transform into a completed space,” Bennett says. “Being able to visit jobsites that our team had a hand in physically constructing, it’s fascinating to watch a space come together from the ground up.”
Berube says it is being involved in all aspects of a project—from pre-construction phases all the way through completion.
“It’s extremely rewarding to see the final product and to know that you played a role in bringing the architect’s vision to life,” Berube says.
According to Bennett, managing time is a daily battle and is the hardest part of the gig. “It feels like there are never enough hours in a day to get to everything that could use attention,” he says. “We are lucky enough to have established a strong management team across the board throughout our divisions, and this has allowed for some of the pressure to be lifted, but there is always more work to be done.”
Berube says the hardest part for him is managing the things that are out of one’s control. His examples include escalation/price increases and lead times/delays. He says that a company can put in all of the preparation up front for a job to run seamlessly, communicate consistently with the vendors and clients, and still be hit with obstacles that cannot be avoided.
The company’s long-term goals are to “continue to take on innovative, groundbreaking projects while maintaining consistent growth and the same levels of superior quality and service that our clients have become accustomed to,” Berube says.
Berube also says that strong relationships with manufacturers and vendors allows NEFS to access the best products and the most advanced technology on the market. NEFS is proud to employ union tradespeople on all of its job sites throughout New England.
“We have established strong relationships with union leaders throughout the region, creating dialogues that put our affiliated unions, as well as our own team members, in stronger positions to succeed on union job sites,” Berube says.
NEFS uses Waltham Lumber, Karpp, L&W Supply and Foundation Building Materials as its main suppliers.
Bennett says that when the next wave of hard times hits, the company will be proactive. “We are constantly working toward a business model that can sustain economic downturns, and we have built a backlog that we are confident will be able to carry us through slowdowns that might come our way in the next couple of years,” he says. He explains that the main thing that the company is doing differently than before is cutting back on overhead while business is strong; operating as if a downturn is around the corner goes a long way when things in the industry start to slow down unexpectedly.
“Our greatest achievement as a company is our culture,” Berube says. “We have been deliberate in prioritizing work-life balance and maintaining an emphasis on employees’ well-being.”
“I have had the opportunity to work with a handful of different organizations throughout my career in construction, and I can say with confidence that the culture at NEFS is not the standard throughout the industry,” Bennett says. “We have a lot of happy employees on our team, and I am dedicated to maintaining that environment throughout my tenure with the organization.”
Project Profile: Northeastern University EXPOwner: Northeastern University Architect: Payette
General Contractor/Hiring Client: Suffolk Construction
EXP is Northeastern University’s newest science and engineering research facility in Boston, Massachusetts. The 350,000-square-foot facility includes both teaching and research labs, classrooms, and a variety of spaces for students and faculty to socialize and collaborate.
From a construction standpoint, this project was quite intricate, with an open-concept design basis and a variety of meticulous architectural details. Though challenging from a logistical standpoint, the project was a true testament to the dedication and skill of the entire NEFS team; from estimating and pre-construction planning through project management and labor on-site, bringing this project across the finish line was an incredibly rewarding process for the whole company.
The scope of the project for NEFS was drywall, metal framing, GFRG forms, Venetian plaster, custom metal trims, GWB ceilings, doors/hardware, millwork installation and laboratory casework installation.
This project included a number of challenging wall and ceiling specifications. The intricacy of the design details paired with the space’s logistical restrictions certainly put the NEFS team to the test, but the company was able to bring innovative installation solutions to the table in order to get the job done. The greatest challenge with the project was the eight-story GFRG dome ceiling over the space’s main staircase.
National Gypsum Co., EB Metal Inc., Castle Access Panels & Forms Inc., Armstrong World Industries, Hilti, Mull-it-Over, Techniform, Fry Reglet and Gypsorb products were all used for the project.